This is a simulation completely inspired by Rob Huff of Bleed Cubbie Blue. See his piece here, of mock trade discussions between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers.
Over the next few days, I will be the best Billy Beane I can be as I negotiate with representatives from our SB Nation sister sites regarding a possible deal for Oakland’s ace, Sonny Gray. The transcripts from the initial round of negotiations will be posted, and once I have each final offer in hand, I will make my decision on which to accept.
Next are the Cubs themselves, and Rob, the inspiration for these negotiations, will take Theo Epstein’s place. Let’s begin.
JH: Hey David, it's Jed Hoyer with the Chicago Cubs...
TE: Just kidding: it's Theo.
We've reached late July and despite some ups and downs this year, we're in pretty good shape to get back to the postseason to defend our title. With that in mind, we're looking around to see if we can make our roster a little stronger, even after bringing in Jose Quintana. That's where you come in.
As you won't be surprised to hear, I'm checking in with you about Sonny. You must be ecstatic that he's put last year's struggles behind him with a lovely season thus far.
Of course, we don't love that he spent most of April nursing a sore forearm. Nobody likes to see that. But the results since then speak for themselves, so we'd like to see what kind of price tag you have in mind for us to bring him to Chicago for the next 2.4 seasons.
I was planning to ask you about Sean Doolittle during this conversation as well. Never mind that.
If we want to make this interesting, you can also let me know what kind of package it'd take to pry Manaea loose. We sure do love that guy.
DF: Hi Theo, it's David!
BP: Just kidding, it's Brad.
BB: Okay, fine, it's Billy. How's it going, Theo? Must be nice to be this decade's most respected executive. Here's a word of advice - enjoy it while it lasts, and don't let anyone make a movie about you, because you will never live it down.
As far as Sonny goes, he is very clearly the top arm remaining on the market, thanks to your cross-town trade for Quintana. Thus, we've gotten tons of hits on him, and we have high demands and expectations for him. We are looking for a similar package to what you have up for Quintana - three or four prospects, two of which should be top notch. I'm unsure if your minor league system has the firepower remaining to replicate a deal like that, so to be competitive for Sonny, you may need to deal a young piece or two from your Major League roster.
For Manaea, we would have to be blown away. He is a huge part of our future, and is more or less Sonny's replacement as our ace. However, almost everyone on our roster is available for the right price. Let me know if you see a fit anywhere, or have an offer.
TE: Wait, does "Fever Pitch" not count?
Sonny is definitely the consensus top arm left on the market...if you don't count two or three other guys anyway.
In all seriousness, we've had our conversations on him in the past and it's great to see him rebound so well this year. More than anything, it's just nice to see him healthy again.
I realize you're probably about to be inundated with offers, so I'll try to make this simple for you. We like Sonny, even with his history of arm injuries. We're willing to pay more for Manaea, even with the possibility that his hip labrum might pop. For Manaea, I've got three names in mind, although I don't know if I have anybody that is truly untouchable on the farm at this point (and since I just traded Gleyber and Eloy, you may be wondering if anyone since KB truly was untouchable!).
Any package should start with 3B Jeimer Candelario. The Candy man is ready for an everyday gig in the Majors as a switch-hitter with above-average profiles both offensively and defensively (he doesn't run that well but not everyone can be perfect, right?). He'd look awfully nice locking down the left side of your infield with Franklin Barreto.
For the second piece, I've got RHP Thomas Hatch just about ready for Double-A after being drafted last year. I guess he's only attractive if you like guys with mid-90s heat and better than a strikeout per inning who have allowed two homers in 90 innings as a pro after starting his career at High-A.
And for the third piece, I've got your choice of first-round picks with plus fastball-curveball combos: LHP Brendon Little or LSU star RHP Alex Lange.
So there we go: Candelario, Hatch, and of one Little/Lange for Manaea.
Double-A starter RHP Adbert Alzolay is our breakout star this year, working in the mid-90s with a two-plane heater and a couple of 50+ offspeed pitches. He's two months from being a top-50 prospect and he's going to be in our rotation next year. You know, unless he's in your system then. To move Alzolay, the rest of the package would have to come down a tier.
I'm happy to put Candelario in a Gray trade, but given the number of possible permutations for the other pieces, you'll have to give me a bit more detail as to what you're looking for in addition to Candy.
This won't surprise you: I'm not particularly inclined to move pieces off of my Major League roster since the whole point of acquiring another arm is to beef up our playoff roster.
BB: Personally, it's difficult for me to see a trade for either Manaea or Gray happening with Candelario as the headliner. The bat is nice, but we currently have Matt Chapman at the hot corner, and since he's been looking like a young Josh Donaldson at the plate and in the field, we think he'll be staying there for quite some time. First base is similarly blocked long-term, by the likes of Ryon Healy, Matt Olson, and Renato Nunez. Simply put, Candelario doesn't work as a headliner for us.
One player we do quite like is Ian Happ. Now, I know what you said about dealing from your Major League roster, but I think we could make something work here. I've noticed your Cubs are sort of middle-of-the-pack this year in the home run category. Would you like to add 40 per year to your roster? Khris Davis is available, and he has some of the easiest power you'll ever see. You can slot him into left field, and let Schwarber take a little more time in the minors to get his head back into it. Or even bat the two back-to-back in the lineup, and watch the baseballs fly. Davis is under team control for two years after this one, same as Gray. Something along the lines of Gray and Davis for Happ and a couple other pieces could work for us.
TE: That's a bummer about Candelario, though I understand the logjam (even if Chapman is the only guy who appears to definitely block Candy).
I'm not surprised you like Happ. We like him too! There's a reason he made it to the Majors in about as many minor league plate appearances (978) as Nunez has had a Triple-A (941 and counting).
Davis doesn't do much for us. If we had a DH, it'd be a different story.
You probably know how we feel about Schwarber - I think everybody knows how we feel about Schwarber at this point - so needless to say, we won't be sending him back to Triple-A anytime soon. Anyway, he's hitting .239/.340/.500 since coming back up. We like him.
I think we're going to have one big issue here: after acquiring Quintana, I'm not desperate for a starter like some other times might be in their pursuit of Gray, so it's tough for me to justify putting Happ on the table here.
So let me turn the conversation back to Manaea. I get that Manaea comes with that hip injury risk in addition to recent shoulder, abdominal, and groin injuries on top of whatever other risk we all ascribe to people who throw for a living. I also get that Happ is a miniature Ben Zobrist in the making and that nothing would make Joe happier than having a Swiss Army knife for the rest of his career.
But I like Manaea, doggone it. So what's the general thought on a framework of Manaea+ for Happ? I'd offer to take on some bad money deals of yours, but you've done a nice job purging those from your books.
BB: I'm not sure if adding to Manaea to get Happ makes much sense for me. Obviously Manaea has his injury history, but he's the only guy in the system (outside of A.J. Puk, a year or two away) capable of leading our rotation for the next fiveyears. Happ is very good, but I'm not sure if adding to Manaea in order to gain just two years of team control would be great for us.
Our main focus is moving Sonny. Is there anything we could add to him to get to Happ and a secondary piece? The only players really bolted down are Manaea, Puk, Chapman, and Barreto. Everything else, we can discuss, although I'd obviously rather move veterans.
TE: I understand the reluctance to add to Manaea to get Happ from your perspective. I also appreciate that, of the assets we're discussing, Happ is probably the most valuable as an above-average switch-hitter as a rookie with six years of control and no platoon split. There aren't a lot of those.
It probably doesn't make much sense for us to push forward on a Manaea-Happ framework.
So, turning our attention to a deal featuring Gray and Happ, you and I are in a bit of pickle, Bill. See, I can add Verlander if I take on a bunch of cash. This is a mean thing to say to you, but it's also true: taking on cash isn't a problem for my current club. I know that's never been the case for you, but it's a delightful experience (I suggest you try it). Sonny is pitching better than Verlander this year, to be sure, but Verlander (i) costs less, (ii) comes without the lengthy injury history, and (iii) has a much higher floor. Nine months ago, Sonny was coming off of an injury-riddled year with an ERA of 5.69. Gross.
With all of that said: we still like Sonny and we'd like to add him to our roster. If we're talking a deal with Happ and Gray as the principals, I'd be looking for someone like Jesus Luzardo to come over with Sonny while I'd be willing to throw in a bit part to make it a two-for-two that you can sell to your fan base. Such is life when trying to acquire a productive rookie, the most valuable asset in the game.
Let me know if you're ready to dance or if I should focus my efforts elsewhere.
BB: Don't get me wrong at all, of course I understand Happ's value - that's why I want to trade for him!
Is there another piece (or even two) that could be subbed in for Luzardo that you have interest in? Secondary pieces I like on your side include Isaac Paredes, Mark Zagunis, Aramis Ademan, and Victor Caratini. I'd probably be willing to throw in a bit more if one of the latter two were headed my way.
TE: I have lots of ideas percolating in my brain. Here are some of them:
- Caratini is an MLB-ready catcher with a plus offensive game, including eight homers in half a season at Triple-A. There are maybe, what, one or two of those? Baseball is devoid of quality hitting catching right now and even if Caratini's defensive game is rough around the edges (to be expected with a converted infielder), that makes him a unicorn.
- If we're talking Happ and Caratini on my end, we're talking Manaea (and not Gray) on your end as the principal.
- I love your knowledge of our system. Ademan has us seriously excited. We loved the glove and athleticism out of the DR in 2015, but we weren't sure if the bat would develop. He's hitting for good average, good power, and stealing bags while walking a bit and avoiding strikeouts. Sure, it's the Northwest League, but he's only 18. He's our #2 prospect right now. Paredes isn't as high, but 18-year-old bats producing in full-season ball are awfully rare.
- One name that I didn't mention earlier should be mentioned now: Double-A 3B Jason Vosler. I know, I know: you don't need a third baseman. Vosler is young enough and athletic enough that he should be fine in an outfield corner. And his bat has exploded. You like homers? He's got 15 of 'em this year. You like walks? A 10.6% BB%. You like lefties without platoon splits? His OPS is a bit higher against southpaws. You like guys who succeed without inflated BABIPs? His is .305. He's really emerged. He's exactly the type of player that would be really exciting for just about any organization...provided that said organization wasn't committed to Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Jason Heyward at their corner positions into the next decade. I just don't have a job for the kid despite his gorgeous .269/.370/.466 line.
Here's what I'm thinking, Billy: If I send you Happ and Caratini and Vosler, you send me Manaea, Luzardo, and something else you haven't told me about yet.
This is a bigger trade than either of us probably thought we'd be getting into, but I like Manaea and Luzardo and you need some regulars for next year. This sure seems to make sense.
BB: For us, Caratini would be more luxury than necessity. We really like what Bruce Maxwell has done for us behind the plate. He's been the best defensive catcher we've seen in Oakland since Kurt Suzuki's prime, but with a better arm. He gets on base a lot, and he's a big dude - we think the power will develop. Caratini is great, and he's going to be an above average regular somewhere, but I'm just not sure we need him.
I think you guys have something special in Ademan. I was hoping we'd be able to snipe him, but it seems as if you (fairly) love him as much as we do. Vosler does interest me, however.
That offer of yours is probably a fair return for Manaea, but I am just incredibly hesitant to move him, as he would be extremely difficult for me to replace. I'd still like to center talks around Gray, and I have a counter-offer.
Sonny Gray, either Jesse Hahn or Dainel Coulombe, and either Dakota Chalmers or Heath Fillmyer for Ian Happ, Jason Vosler and Ryan Williams
You know all about Gray. Righty Jesse Hahn probably won't excite you just by numbers alone, but he has great stuff and solid control. His fastball gets up to 96 with great movement, and his curveball is something special. Starting simply hasn't seemed to work for him, though. He could become a devastating bullpen piece, however, and sharing a bullpen with Wade Davis could certainly help that happen. Daniel Coulombe solid bullpen lefty with a silly curveball and a delivery that looks very similar to that of former teammate Clayton Kershaw. Dakota Chalmers, drafted in the third round in 2015, has incredible stuff as well and could be fantastic if he ever learns to command it. Teaching him that won't be easy, but it would be more than worth it. Fillmyer is a sleeper prospect that some guys like a lot. He's a good makeup guy, with three pitches that project to be at least average, along with average command. Perfect back-end type.
Let me know what you think. I know you prefer Manaea, and I do too, but it would probably take more than you're willing to give up for him.
TE: Re Maxwell: it's good to dream, right? He does get on base and throw well. No comment re power/age/framing.
I've got to ask around about the non-Gray guys you wrote about just now.
Just so Jed and I can have a fun lunch convo tomorrow, what would it take to do Manaea?
BB: We don't need Maxwell to be a left-handed Buster Posey. We're more than satisfied if he's a consistent 2-3 win player, which he's looking like he could be.
If we're moving Manaea, we wouldn't want to add a valuable piece like Luzardo as well. We could add one of our lower-tier pieces, an MLB rental, or a change of scenery guy, but no top 5-10 prospects. A possibly return to get us thinking would start with Happ, and then something like Adbert Alzolay, Aramis Ademan, and we can haggle a bit from there.
TE: OK, we can get off the Manaea train. That's far too rich for our taste.
I'll get back to you shortly on Sonny.
BB: I was assuming it would be, which is probably best for both sides long-term.
Not a problem at all, take your time.
TE: I mean, what's best for me is you giving me Manaea for $1. That's not happening (right?).
OK, here goes on your Sonny offer:
Gray: we know what he is
Hahn: are you really trying to sell me a guy you just optioned to Triple-A right before his 28th birthday?
Coulombe: he's not bad, but he's not good either - he wouldn't have a Major League job for us right now
Chalmers: are you really trying to sell me a guy who quit two months ago?
Fillmyer: Fillmyer is interesting (and I've got a thing for converts), but I don't love the backup in results at Double-A this year (I'm sure you don't either)
We could've had a fun conversation about Daulton Jefferies if you could've kept his arm attached.
So here's where we are: we'd do Happ/Vosler/Williams for one of the two packages below. You tell me which one works for you.
Package 1: RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Grant Holmes, RHP Heath Fillmyer
Package 2: RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Frankie Montas (we get to try to be the fifth team to get him to throw strikes without allowing homers)
BB: No, unfortunately we aren't *that* hard-pressed for cash. Thank you for the offer, though.
Those deals are both close to alright for me, but I'd rather hang onto both Holmes and Treinen for the time being. So, a bit of a merger of the two - my offer is:
RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Heath Fillmyer, RHP Frankie Montas for IF/OF Ian Happ, IF Jason Vosler, RHP Ryan Williams
TE: I don't quite like that one enough. I'll sit on this for a bit as I think about a counter. If you do Gray, Montas, and one of Holmes/Treinen, it can work. If you'd like to unload Casilla (not a good night for him in Canadia last night, eh?), we can talk.
BB: My order of preference, from greatest to least, of those four: Holmes, Treinen, Montas, Fillmyer. I would like to move
Jairo Santiago Casilla if possible.
TE: I can get behind Gray/Treinen/Montas and I eat Casilla's salary.
BB: That deal might work for me. One thing, though - I would like one or two throw-ins, just veteran relievers you may have taking up space in Triple-A. They don't need to be any good, I just need warm bodies to fill in my bullpen for the rest of this season, before I re-make it in the offseason. Not prospects, just guys that can throw an inning.
TE: How about David Rollins (Triple-A, threw a couple of innings for the Mariners last year)?
BB: That is an adequate offer. I will be getting back to you after I ask around the league. To recap, your proposal:
IF/OF Ian Happ, 3B Jason Vosler, RHP Ryan Williams, LHP David Rollins
RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Santiago Casilla, RHP Frankie Montas
In reality, I don’t see a deal with the Cubs working out. After acquiring Jose Quintana from the White Sox, they don’t have a strong enough need in their rotation - Sonny would be more of a luxury for them. In addition, they don’t have a true blue-chipper on their farm anymore to trade for Gray, and would most likely have to either empty the farm or trade from their Major League roster, neither of which they would be excited to do.
In this simulation, Rob was much more interested in lefty Sean Manaea. However, I let him know that my baseline price for Manaea would be expensive - Ian Happ, along with two very exciting, high upside prospects. When talks shifted back to Gray, I still insisted on Happ as the main piece coming back, even though that meant I had to add to my side. None of Candelario, Baez, or Russell are that great of a fit for the current A’s team, and thus I had very little interest in any of them.
Happ is a different story. The 22 year-old switch-hitter has good power, and can play both the infield and outfield. While long term he may be a bit of a stretch in center field, he can certainly play there until he ages out of it. Also headed to Oakland would be intriguing third baseman Jason Vosler, who has shown good discipline and power, and could be moved to a corner outfield spot. Ryan Williams is an interesting back-end type with good control, and David Rollins is simply bullpen filler.
Unfortunately, I had to add two high-upside bullpen arms to the deal in Frankie Montas and Blake Treinen. I would personally prefer to trade these two over a prospect like Grant Holmes, but it still hurts to see both go. Dumping Santiago Casilla’s contract is definitely a plus, however.
Personally, depending on what other offers looked like, I don’t think I would end up going with this trade. If I were only giving up Montas, maybe, but I like Treinen a bit too much. Other teams will likely be more desperate for Gray’s services than the Cubs, and will be willing to give more. Stay tuned for more, and let me know what you thought of this second round of negotiations.
Would you pull the trigger on the proposed deal? (Gray, Treinen, Montas, Casilla for Happ, Vosler, Williams, Rollins)
This poll is closed